Bloomberg Businessweek March 2, 2020 pp10-12 “Walmart makes a major move into health clinics and services.
In the past, Walmart made an incremental move into healthcare clinics to supplement its pharmacy. The clinics were in a corner of the Supercenter, offered few services and weren't successful enough to cover fixed costs.
Today, hoping to tap into more of the $3.7T spent on American healthcare, Walmart is initiating adjacent but free-standing clinics (6,500 sq ft), run by physicians, that offer medical checkups, teeth cleaning, hearing checks, vision care, mental health counseling and access to lab testing. The clinics are open for extended hours even in rural communities that lack access and that are home to highly uninsured populations-as much as 14% without insurance. Unlike living in an urban area, access to full time is limited in many rural areas. Some patients drive as far as 75 miles for healthcare.
In these new Walmart clinics, pricing for services is transparent, fixed , known in advance and low. Insurance is not needed thereby reducing hassle to the patient, freeing up 25% of a caregiver’s time and reducing a substantial business cost. Insurance can be used but savings are unlikely as those with insurance often have plans with substantial co-pays and deductibles. Like the rest of Walmart’s offerings, they have stripped out costs, as much as 40% for these services, to provide the lowest price in market.
For Walmart, healthcare is already accounting for $36B dispensing 400,000,000 prescriptions and having 3000 vision centers. They believe that having a meaningful service level can be a win-win by benefiting communities in need while significantly growing their healthcare business. Additionally, they view the opportunity as a strategic move against CVS et al. including Amazon.
With 150,000,000 customers visiting Walmart's "brick and mortar" one would expect success, if managed correctly, and synergies when clinic customers move to the pharmacy and superstore as a matter of convenience-even if a lower drug price might be down the road.
With 56% of revenue, ~$190B, coming from Groceries, and having had a poor healthcare record for its own workers, Walmart realizes that only 11% of Americans would currently consider using a Walmart clinic. It’s new model may be more attractive but growth will be slow.